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Top Tapas for Holiday Parties

Festive-Looking, Easy-to-Eat, Make-Ahead Tapas


With so many fabulous tapas, how did we choose which ones to recommend for a holiday party? First, the tapas had to have a "wow" factor – very colorful, or a special flavor. Second, they had to be easy to eat at a cocktail party – not a drippy, hard-to-hold mess. Last, most if not all the preparation could be done ahead of time, so you'll have more time with your guests.

We recommend staged servings. Set out 2 tapas every 30 minutes, essential if you are planning an open-house or drop-in style affair. Below each item on the list is a brief description, as well as serving suggestions for a larger party.

Warm Serrano Ham on Toast Recipe - Alpargata Tapa

Alpargata tapa - Serrano Ham on Toast
Lisa Sierra (c) 2010 Licensed to About.com Inc.

Serrano ham is warmed on a piece of toast, which has been rubbed with tomato to keep it a bit moist. We recommend doubling this recipe and making "mini-alpargatas" if you are hosting a large party. That way you can prepare a couple dozen slices of baguette.

Melon with Serrano Ham Recipe - Melon con Jamon Serrano

Melon with Serrrano Ham - Melon con Jamon Serrano (c)
Lisa Sierra (c) 2009 Licensed to About.com Inc.

Salty and full of flavor, Serrano ham makes an excellent contrast with the sweet, juicy Honeydew melon. This tapa takes about 5-10 minutes to prepare and requires no cooking. The bright green melon contrasts nicely with the deep red ham, making a festive appearance.

Spanish Omelet Recipe - Tortilla Espanola or Tortilla de Patata

Spanish Potato Omelet - Tortilla de Patata
Lisa Sierra (c) 2008 Licensed to About.com

The classic Spanish Omelet makes the perfect party food. After making the omelet and allowing it to cool, cut into 2-inch squares and serve atop small slices of baguette. Keep the tortilla in place using a toothpick.

Serrano Ham, Cheese & Chorizo with Bread Recipe - Jamón, Queso y Chorizo con Pan

Typical Tapa - Spanish Chorizo, Cheese & Bread
(c) 2007 L. Sierra Licensed to About.com
This is a simple, but delicious appetizer or tapa that everyone enjoys. It involves very little cooking and you can put it together at the last minute. Thinly cut Serrano ham, Manchego cheese and fried Spanish chorizo with bread slices.

Spanish Seafood Kabobs Recipe - Brochetas de Gambas, Calamar y Pescado

Spanish Seafood Kabobs - Brochetas de Marisco y Pescado
Tony Sierra (c) 2009 Licensed to About.com Inc.
Shrimp, calamari and fish are threaded onto skewers, then grilled on a hot flat iron or skillet and brushed with alioli sauce, giving them a rich garlic flavor. Prepare the skewers and sauce ahead of time. Then, grill the kabobs just before serving.

Garlic Shrimp Tapa Recipe - Gambas al Ajillo

Spanish Garlic Shrimp - Gambas al Ajillo (c)
Lisa Sierra (c) 2009 Licensed to About.com

One of the most common tapas of Spain, gambas al ajillo is quick, easy and FULL of garlic flavor. We recommend using smaller, peeled shrimp for a party, and serving in small clay pots or plates with lots of toothpicks and slices of baguettes for dipping in the sauce.

Fried Eggplant with Molasses Recipe - Berenjena Frita con Miel de Cana

Spanish Fried Eggplant with Sugar Cane Mollases Recipe - Berenjena Frita con Miel de Cana
Lisa Sierra (c) 2010 Licensed to About.com Inc.

A typical dish from Granada and Malaga areas of Andalucia, it is quick, easy and inexpensive to prepare. Slice, flour and fry eggplant rounds. Drizzle molasses (miel de cana) or flavored honey over the top and serve.

Brie Cheese with Roasted Garlic-Paprika Filling Recipe

Brie Cheese with Roasted Garlic-Paprika Filling (c)
Lisa Sierra (c) 2009 Licensed to About.com Inc.

Smoked Spanish paprika has an intense and unique flavor that is a basic ingredient in many Spanish dishes. This tapa combines roasted garlic, dry sherry and paprika with baked Brie cheese to make a soft, rich appetizer. Allow cheese to cool, then slice carefully and serve atop slices of a rustic baguette.

Easy Roasted Red Peppers in Oil, Vinegar & Garlic Recipe

Piquillo Peppers with Oil, Vinegar and Garlic, Pimientos de Piquillo con Aceite, Vinagre y Ajo
Lisa Sierra (c) 2010 Licensed to About.com Inc.
Roasted red piquillo peppers are marinated in Spanish extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and minced garlic. Serve on a platter with a small fork, spoon and toothpicks. Let your guests top baguette slices with a pepper and drizzle the oil and vinegar on the bread if they wish.
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